How one journalist’s chance encounter on New Years Eve uncovered a scandal that would strike at the heart of the Catholic Church

Philomena Lee and Martin SixsmithThe film “Philomena”, starring Steve Coogan and Dame Judi Dench, has received rave reviews for it’s portrayal of the relationship between the journalist Martin Sixsmith and Philomena Lee, a woman whose son was taken from her by the Catholic Church when she was an unmarried teenager and sold to adoptive parents in America. A chance encounter at a New Year’s Eve party led to Sixsmith travelling with Philomena, first to Ireland and then America in order to find out what happened to her son. In doing so Sixsmith uncovered systemic abuses of power perpetuated by the Catholic Church in the 1950’s against unmarried mothers and their children. Sixsmith’s moving first person account of the story is available here, although those who have yet to see the film should be warned that it contains spoilers.

The UK release of Philomena coincides with the Irish Council for Civil Liberties appearing before the UNHCR to appeal for an independent investigation into conditions at the Magdalene Laundries, institutions run by religious authorities where women who were deemed to be “fallen” were incarcerated indefinitely. The first edition of LACUNA, which will be published in February 2014, will feature writings on of the role of protest in uncovering the treatment of women and children in the laundries. To ensure that you don’t miss out on this or any other content, subscribe to our mailing list, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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